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April 13, 2005

'Bartleby, the Scrivener' – by Herman Melville


This 1853 story by Herman Melville (above) is a great work of art.

Bartleby's five words of refusal, "I would prefer not to," remain the best way to reject a request.

They don't shove it back in the enquirer's face; nor do they seem rude or hostile.

Rather, they seem to focus the refuser's inner doubts and reticence in a way difficult to attack further.

Here, then, is a link to this superb story, with annotations by Ann Woodlief of Virginia Commonwealth University.

If you prefer, you can read it here without the hypertext.

To paraphrase what the Fram oil filter guy used to say in the great commercial, "You can read it now — or you can read it later."


However — reading it would be the highest and best use possible of your morning — or any other waking moments — today.

April 13, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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